It’s time to sharpen the pencils, pack the new backpack, and choose the outfit for the first day of school. I remember my first day of kindergarten like it was yesterday. I’m sure my parents told me I was going, but my four-year-old fears got the best of me. I cried the entire half-day. Thankfully I had the BEST kindergarten teacher ever - Ms. Tomkins. She cradled me in her lap for what seemed to be the whole morning. I adjusted quickly because she was so nurturing and, well because...children adjust quickly. Some of my fondest kindergarten memories are playing at the water station, making friends (one that I still have to this day), and story time.
Four years ago my daughter started kindergarten and I had to be careful not project my first day of school experience on to her. She hugged me, joined her class line and glanced back at me a few times. Then she walked down the hall and disappeared into a sea of tiny heads. I walked away teary-eyed, but in awe of her maturity.
My son started kindergarten last fall. Emotionally steeled, I thought to myself, I can do this no sweat…yeah right. I was still teary-eyed and slightly amiss when after our hug and high five, he walked away to join his line without looking back. He had preschool and years of daycare under his belt so I shouldn’t have expected anything less.
Sending a little one to school on the first day is one of the most emotional moments in a young child's and their parent’s lives. There are sure to be tears and thumbs-up, and the hugs are always a little tighter that morning. There are the criers, the can’t-wait-to-get-into-everything-kids, and every reaction in between. Each is as unique as the child.
One thing is certain, Kindergarten is 10 action-packed months full of activities, growth, and lasting memories. September’s child seems all grown up come June.
Here are a few books to help kids and parents get ready for the big day!
One Happy Classroom is a sweet picture book teaches counting while introducing kids to a typical classroom setting.
Written by Chaman Simon and Illustrated by Rebecca McKillip Thornburgh
Kindergarten Here I Come! celebrates fun and familiar kindergarten moments through poetry!
Written by D.J. Steinberg and Illustrated by Mark Chambers
The Night Before Kindergarten will ease kids’ and parents’ fears about saying good-bye on the first day of school. It’s a clever take on the classic Christmas poem.
Written by Natasha Wing and Illustrated by Julie Durrell
The Night Before Preschool is Wing's comforting story for preschoolers.
Written by Natasha Wing and Illustrated Amy Wummer
Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten shows how kindergarteners get ready for school at home while the kindergarten teacher gets her classroom ready for first day of school.
Written by Joseph Slate and Illustrated by Ashley Wolff
Carol Higgins-Lawrence wrote her first picture book at the age of five. Her father paid her a quarter for it and she's been writing ever since. She's taken a variety of courses in writing for children. Multicultural perspectives are of particular interest to her. Carol is of Jamaican descent and was born and raised in Canada. She has a BA in Communications and Sociology and she has completed coursework towards a MA in TESOL. She has worked as a literacy educator for the past 15 years. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two young children.
It’s easy to fall into the picture book trenches. Each day, you show up at the computer and hammer away at your current masterpiece. There are so many elements to get right--the opening hook, the appealing main character, the plot, the satisfying yet surprising twist at the end. Sometimes the goal of writing something wonderful can be so consuming, you forget one of the most important story ingredients.
I recently rediscovered this important aspect of story when I read interviews featuring two of the most successful picture book authors today--Adam Rubin (Dragons Love Tacos) and Kelly Bingham (Z is for Moose). In each case, they read what was available, then returned to their computer and decided to write something that would make them laugh. “There were a few books I liked,” said Adam, “but most were saccharine, didactic or just plain boring. I decided to just write something I thought was funny.”
In Kelly’s case, she had a son who was learning to read and she knew he liked humorous books. But when they went to the library to find humorous alphabet books, they couldn’t find anything that fit the bill. (This was some years ago.) So Kelly decided to write her own humorous alphabet book. As she wrote, she kept in mind the kinds of things that made her son laugh. When Kelly’s friends read it, they urged her to submit it. And the rest, as they say, is history.
After reading these interviews, I felt a surge of creative freedom to have fun too. (What had I been waiting for?) My characters didn’t have to stay in a carefully crafted picture book box. I could let loose and who knew what would happen?! It was exciting to trust my instincts and go wherever they took me.
Since my recent fun revival, I’ve written several manuscripts that I’m terribly excited about. I’m sure they'lll sell. (Okay--I always think they’ll sell, but this time I really mean it--lol!) They were just good fun to write, and it was exciting to go where no one (well, me anyway) had gone before.
So step out of those picture book trenches.
And let the fun begin!
Lori Mortensen is an award-winning children’s book author of more than 70 books and over 350 stories and articles. A member of SCBWI, Lori is a frequent speaker at schools, SCBWI conferences, and has worked as a writing instructor for the past eight years at the Institute of Children’s Literature. Recent picture book titles include Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg, (Clarion, 2013), Cindy Moo (HarperCollins, 2012), Come See the Earth Turn – The Story of Léon Foucault (Random House, 2010), and In the Trees, Honey Bees! (Dawn, 2009). To learn more about Lori and her upcoming books, visit her website at www.lorimortensen.com, or read her blog at http://lorimortensen.blogspot.com
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